I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Loveswept on July 19 2016
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Erotica
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The nitty-gritty: A surprising and tantalizing blend of fantasy and erotica, these stories are unique in more ways than one.
Good lordy, Ms. Fisher…so it’s been a while since I’ve read any erotica, but because Sharon Lynn Fisher is a favorite author of mine (I’ve reviewed this and this and this), I decided to take the plunge and try out her latest collection of fairy tale-inspired short stories with a healthy dose of erotica. I enjoyed several pleasant evenings devouring these stories, which, surprisingly enough, are not JUST erotica. Fisher’s tales can stand on their own without the sexy elements, but believe me when I say they would not be quite the same.
Fair warning—other than the obvious—Fisher’s female characters do seem timid and submissive at first: a woman agrees to marry a monster in order to secure a treaty between her people and his; a girl consumes a hallucinogenic substance that will allow her to experience vivid fantasies, and ends up being restrained for the pleasure of several players in her fantasy. But I was happily surprised that most of these women have grit behind their tight corsets and diaphanous skirts. Yes, there is a fair bit of tying up going on, but damn, these women are enjoying every minute of it.
And because I know that Sharon Lynn Fisher can tell a fantastic story, I wasn’t surprised at all to find so much more than sex in these stories. Each has a distinct fairy tale feel to it, and each one feels completely different from the rest. In one story, a girl discovers that she can turn into a dragon. In another, a woman braves the scary castle of a creature known as Raven, in order to take back the jewel he stole from her mother. And in another, a woman meets a mysterious man who claims to be the legendary Arthur, who tells her she is the love of his life, Viviane. Each story was engaging on its own, but then throw in some down-and-dirty sex and, for the reader who enjoys erotica, this is a hard-to-resist collection.
Here’s a breakdown of each story:
The Garden Rules – This was one of my favorites! I loved the idea of a Renaissance Faire type setting with a fantasy twist, where fair-goers engage in their deepest fantasies by ingesting hallucinatory “sweetmeats.” It was no coincidence that our leading lady buys the “forbidden” delicacy from a woman named Eve, and is encouraged to eat it in order to experience a fantasy unlike any other. At this point I’ll leave you to your imagination. Let me just mention there is a faun. And Marie Antoinette makes an appearance. And then there is a whole herd of fauns. Yup.
The Dragonmaid’s Secret – I enjoyed this shape-shifter story about a woman named Isabeau who discovers—after she is sexually awakened—that she can turn into a dragon! What I loved about Isabeau is that she enjoyed the sexual shenanigans (with more than one man) but in the end, she made her own decisions about what she wanted and stuck to them.
Raven Takes a Pearl – I loved this one! This reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, and in Fisher’s version, “Beauty” has come to the Raven’s castle in order to steal back her mother’s valuable gemstone. She encounters several interesting characters who teach her a thing or two, and I loved that there were steampunk elements to this story. I think out of all the stories in this collection, Raven Takes a Pearl had the most depth. It was weird, surprising, romantic and magical.
The Kelpie’s Prize – I loved the Victorian setting in this story, and yes, you guessed it, our leading lady wears a corset! But this time Fisher added an interesting bit of history to the tale, weaving the legend of King Arthur and Viviane into a love story that spans centuries.
Willa and the Wisp – For this tale, Fisher changes gears and sets her story in a fantastical New Orleans bayou. Willa needs a reliable light source to travel through the dangerous bayou at night, and she finds it from a woman who sells her a wisp in a jar, an ancient creature that will always give off light, provided she never lets it out. As in most of these stories, the main character is lucky enough to have multiple partners, and one of them is a ghost!
The Dragonfly Prince – I really loved this story about a girl who is sacrificing herself to marriage with a “transgenic” man, a creature who is half man, half insect, in order to secure a truce with his kingdom. This story really surprised me, as it didn’t go in the direction I was expecting at all. This story featured a rather complex relationship between the main character and her step brother. (Yes, just allow your imagination to go there) And oh yes, the dragonfly prince of the title is a very important part of that relationship.
And the author includes much more than just your typical “man-woman” hook ups. For those readers looking for diversity, Fisher isn’t afraid to mix things up. (Among other things, you’ll find a statue, a robot and a ghost.) So obviously, this collection won’t be for everyone. But for those readers with a sense of adventure who are looking for a change of pace and aren’t afraid to go there, Before She Wakes is a wonderful, sexy, titillating trip to the other side of speculative fiction, that side you’ve been curious about but until now, haven’t been brave enough to try. Be bold. Take the plunge. And have some fun.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.